In the Very Here and Now

Something is off with me today. I don’t know what it is. I’m more critical than usual. Nothing has happened to make me angry, but I am afraid the smallest thing could set me off.

I am struggling to enjoy the present moment. I am thinking about the past. I am getting frustrated about a future that has not even happened. My mind is a whirlwind struggling to stay grounded in the now. I don’t like who I am right now, this person who cannot discipline his mind.

I am reminded of this Buddhist saying: Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future…look deeply at life as it is, in the very here and now.

It is so easy for me to give advice to others suffering from depression. I can look at their pain and what they have lost objectively, thinking that it does not affect me. But I have been there before, I am partly there now, and I will certainly be there again in the future. It is a part of being human. We suffer because we do not have what we desire.

How often did I pursue the past? Instead of learning the lesson, I went back and revisited it over and over. Can I change it? Can I bring back the dead, undo a wrong, or make a decision that would bring less suffering to the present? I cannot, so why do I stay in this place in time that I have no business dwelling in? Why do I lock myself into this misery that is no more?

Do I know what this future will bring? Do I know how I will die? Will it be on own terms? I am reminded of a friend who thinks she will pass in the same way as other members of her family. They all died at an early age, and it gives her much anxiety. As an outsider unaffected by this family condition, I am not completely empathetic to her worries. Why worry about something outside of our control? Oh, the fool that I am! Maybe I don’t consider how I will die in the same way she does, but I allow myself to get upset about something that may or may not happen later in the day. I grow anxious about the problems of tomorrow and what may come around the corner next year. Am I not the same as she?

I am reading Eckhart Tolle’s Oneness with All Life. I read a chapter of this book at night before bed. It is a beautiful book that is really speaking to me. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7’s Becoming Present:

We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making. Our very Presence then becomes our identity, rather than our thoughts and emotions.

Only Presence can free you of the ego, and you can only be present Now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Only Presence can undo the past in you and thus transform your state of consciousness.

It is not an easy thing to be present. Yet all is not lost, we can learn to be present. That is a beautiful thing because it gives me hope that I can stop pursuing the past or lose myself in the future. It gives me the opportunity to do what needs to be done now. Being locked into the present, I can give my full attention to being a good husband and a father. I can give my full attention to being a good man, a good human.

There are those I care about whose suffering is only in their mind. Yet their suffering is so great that it is affecting their bodies. Maybe it is you or maybe someone you know. We can remember our past. We can remember and love the ones we have lost. We can acknowledge our mistakes with the hopes of not repeating them. But what has happened has happened. We cannot go back. We cannot change it. The only thing we can do is go forward. And yes, we go forward into an unknown future. We do not know what will happen. There will be uncertainty, and there will be hardships. But there will also be joy, and there will be love. Whatever happens will happen, but we cannot lose ourselves in it before it happens. We must live today. We owe it to our friends and family, to our parents, our spouses, and our children. We owe it to ourselves.

Take a breath. Be aware of the breath. It is the only thing that matters in the very here and now. That breath. The breath you took before it is no more. The breath you take next doesn’t matter if you don’t take the breath you have now. One breath through your nose into your belly extending upwards to your chest. Don’t be afraid, breathe it all in. Pause at the top, savor the moment. And then, let it all out. This is freedom, and now you are free to take the next one, to move forward.


Feature photo by RKTKN on Unsplash

Suffer-ability

I love the analogy of running a race as it compares to life. In both, you start out on a journey with the goal of winning, or in some cases –just finishing. I have never been the first to cross the finish line of a running race, but I have had a few personal victories along the way. Those victories didn’t happen by chance. I had to work for them, overcoming obstacles both internal and external.

In a conventional race, you really only have to deal with your own preparedness, the weather conditions, and the difficulty of the course layout. These were the only races I was running until last year, when I experienced my first obstacle course race. Not only did I have to deal with the all the factors involved in a conventional race, I had to deal with the obstacles, the water crossings, and the mud. A whole new animal and an even better metaphor for this race we call life.

I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering. –Amelia Boone (one of the greatest obstacle course racers to ever step on the course)

When we think of practice, we think of doing an act over and over until we get better at it. Yoga is considered a practice. In order to do the poses, you have to practice. Meditation, reading, sports –all practices. If you want to improve, you must practice. Have you ever considered suffering as a practice? Suffering in a controlled environment, like an obstacle course race, gives you an opportunity to expose yourself to a bit of suffering. In the beginning, it is definitely not easy. But the more you do it, the better you become –the greater your ability to suffer in the future. To get past the obstacles in a race requires you to problem solve. It requires trial and error. And if you keep going and don’t quit, you just might be able to finish the race.

These artificial impediments along your journey are really no different than the ones you face in real life. The ramifications in life might be greater, but you have to solve them the same way. We can’t control everything that slows us down. Some of these obstacles are self-induced, others come upon us by chance. All we can do is navigate them to the best of our abilities. If we can continue doing this and not despair nor quit, we can be victorious in this game of life.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. –Muhammad Ali

Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly. -Plutarch

This is a continuation from Thursday’s post on not giving up. The conditions will not always be perfect. We might not ever be 100% healthy. But the race goes on. We have to keep going. We have to tackle each obstacle that gets in the way.